USA Basketball’s participation in events like the World Cup and Olympic Games presents some unique opportunities for America’s NBA stars. Not just to play a different brand of hoops or to go for the gold, but to connect with one another in entirely new ways. Just ask the Bulls‘ Zach LaVine about his Tokyo experience with Nets‘ star Kevin Durant.
The two had gone toe-to-toe on the hardwood on multiple occasions, of course. But this was the first time they had been living, working and balling together as part of a united front. And it went exceedingly well; Team USA cruised to another gold medal and both men were a big part of the result.
Durant averaged a team-high 20.7 points per game during the Olympic tourney and passed Carmelo Anthony as the Americans’ all-time leading scorer. Meanwhile, LaVine chipped in with 9.7 PPG in what was his first Olympic experience.
So, what did LaVine learn while being in such close proximity to a generational talent during the Summer Games?
“How good he is,” LaVine mused ahead of the Bulls-Nets affair on Monday, via NBC Sports Chicago.
LaVine Was Wowed by KD’s Next-Level Work Ethic
The Bulls continue to have high hopes for LaVine as the cornerstone piece for their franchise. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have gone out of their way to build a roster around him over the summer. That said, the eighth-year pro must continue to grow if Chicago wants to be where Brooklyn is.
To that end, there may have been no better example for him to watch and learn from than Durant. That wasn’t lost on the Bulls star, either.
“He’s a great guy, extremely intelligent, incredible teammate. We all looked to him for leadership out there. Obviously, we made the right decision with that,” LaVine said. “You grow friendships and you see his work ethic and everything like that.
“I tried to shoot with him every day. But he didn’t miss one workout, one routine. Every day he got in the gym, he had the same workout after practice. He shot after every day. He came early to the gym. His work ethic is second to none. I just tried to attach to that.”
Get all the latest news, analysis and viral content for your Chicago Bulls! Follow the Heavy on Bulls Facebook page!
Bulls Come Back to Beat the Nets
The Nets had entered Monday’s game on a five-game winning streak and No. 6 was definitely in sight entering the fourth quarter. At the time, Brooklyn held a 78-76 advantage and Durant was firing on all cylinders. He finished the night with 38 points, 10 boards and four assists in the contest.
However, LaVine and the Bulls turned up the intensity during the final period, outscoring Brooklyn 42-17 to secure a 118-95 win. The Nets were just 5-of-20 from the floor during the quarter, committing five turnovers.
“I felt like they did a good job of getting into us on our sets and we also missed some good looks, rushed some shots, trying to get back into the game,” Durant said of the effort. “Once we got down five or seven, I think we tried to rush and get back. Once we got down 11, 12, I feel like we were trying to get it back so fast and that just pushed the lead up.”
Although LaVine logged a 24-5-5 line in the game — and DeMar DeRozan put up 28 points — it was Ayo Dosunmu’s 15 points off the bench, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter, that really got the United Center rocking.
At times, Brooklyn was able to get stops. However, the team’s defense was as bad as its offense in the fourth quarter and the battle down low was a rough one all night. The Bulls outscored the Nets 54-26 in the paint.
- NBA Makes Surprise Ruling on Kyrie’s All-Star Status
- Bulls Stars Preached ‘Sacrifice,’ But Only One Is Doing It
- Nets Wing’s No-Worries Attitude Pays Off: ‘He’s Just Not Giving a S***’
- Massive and Costly Trade Proposal Would Land Bulls Christian Wood